So, how ’bout the Tribe? Plenty more on them in a bit. But first…
Welcome to Josh Gordon Appeal Part Deux. Having spent almost all of Friday discussing the merits of inconclusive specimens and an NFL taking a pin to their very own public relations bubble, all parties will reportedly reconvene on Monday. By now, you’ve likely read nearly every thought we have on the matter, but have you read this one from Grantland’s Andrew Sharp? In what may be the most eye-opening part of this whole fiasco, the fact that the NFL has a 15 nanogram threshold for marijuana—while the World Anti-doping Angency’s is 150 and Major League Baseball’s is 50—speaks volumes for the entire ‘misguided resources’ argument. Like Sharp says, regardless of how this ends, it all reflects worse on the NFL than it does on Josh Gordon. Unfortunately, it’s Cleveland fans who will have to deal with the collateral damage in the event the Pro Bowl receiver is thrown the book. “Only the NFL could act like it’s still the 1950s and expect the rest of us to just go along with it.”
If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you likely weren’t aware of my work for ESPNDallas on Friday night for the Tribe-Rangers tilt.
Of the five story links in this shot of the front page, four of them were written by yours truly. We have some pre-game notes: Alex Rios and Neal Cotts hope to be back next season, Rangers call up reliever Phil Klein, Wash on Cespedes: West lost a huge weapon. We have the requisite “Rapid Reaction” (filed immediately after the final pitch): Indians 12, Rangers 2: Rapid Reaction. And finally, my game story, which runs alongside the AP gamer: Williams must prove poor play is the exception
Working for ESPNDallas officially makes me one stop shy on the tour of regionals, as I’ve done some work for ESPNLA, ESPN Chicago and ESPNNY. I can think of a few assignments easier than just dropping in cold on a team that one doesn’t follow religiously—seriously, how many active Texas Rangers can you name?—and writing up a few thousand words on said organization. For some reason, ESPN lets me do it anyway. The fact that they gave me the front page was mighty nice of them.
This Outside the Lines video on Jim Kelly and his fight against cancer was terrific.
The Best American Sportswriting, 2014 edition, was released late last week. If you missed it, you can check out the list here. It’s great to see some younger writers (Flinder Boyd, Eli Saslow, etc.) get the nod in addition to multiple electronic outlets like Deadspin, Grantland and SB Nation.
Some of my favorites of the batch: Chris Jones’ incredibly well-reported piece on the grueling life of being a Japanese pitcher, Flinder Boyd’s terrific story about a Rucker Park hopeful, and Jay Caspian Kang’s story on the waning career arc of Don King.
The book will be available in October of this year.
A lot of links today, but that won’t stop us from breaking out this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting.
“All Work and No Play for JJ Watt” by Robert Mays (Grantland): “Repeating  was going to be next to impossible, but Watt came closer last year than most think. He was again a first-team All-Pro and could still lay claim to the title of best defensive player alive, but after three months without a win, blame becomes a virus. “When you’re 2-14,” Watt says, “you have moments of doubt.” That’s why Watt is here, on this Wednesday in mid-June, having just finished another workout at NRG Stadium. As he sits down at a table in a half-lit room used for press conferences, his gray sleeveless T-shirt is soaked through with sweat. Four drinks — two waters and two small protein shakes — sit in front of him. It’s the Texans’ day off.”
“Summer basketball and youthful struggle…” by Lee Jenkins (Sports Illustrated): “Unlike many NBA superstars, who were prodigies by 16, George can recall what it’s like to be at square one. He wasn’t invited to join an AAU program until the summer before his senior year of high school, and even then, he was placed on the B team. Fresno State was the only major local college to offer him a scholarship, and in two years with the Bulldogs, he lost more games than he won. He went scoreless as a sophomore against San Jose State. Indiana gambled by drafting him 10th overall in 2010 and head coach Jim O’Brien planted him on the bench. When George predicted at a team dinner that he would be an All Star by his third season, one Pacer laughed.”
“The Hargrave Four” by Chad Nielsen (SB Nation): “Nothing could stand in their way, no obstacle and certainly no other player. Coveted by coaches, anointed by the media, the Hargrave Four were destined for collegiate glory, professional cash, and all the trappings that fame would bring. Until something odd happened: nothing. None of it happened. Today, in 2014, football has forgotten the most talented defensive line in amateur history, even as the last man standing battles for an NFL roster spot.”
“Party Like a Browns Star” by Mike Tanier (Sports on Earth): “Johnny Manziel stopped for a beer at a joint called Two Bucks in Middleburg Heights, Ohio last week. As per federal law, someone snapped some photos of him and shared them with the world. A few days later, I arrived at a hotel in Middleburg Heights to cover Browns training camp. The little airport hotel was staggering distance from an official Johnny Manziel Hotspot! It afforded me a unique opportunity. I cannot sip martinis in Sinatra’s Vegas haunts as they were in the Rat Pack glory days. I cannot roam the canals of Venice in the footsteps of Casanova, catching his conquests on the rebound. But I could hunker down on Manziel’s still-warm barstool and briefly experience life as the NFL’s most notorious young socialite and quarterback-about-town.”
And finally: Common’s new album, “Nobody’s Smiling” came out late last month. Even if you don’t appreciate hip-hop, you can appreciate well-written album reviews. Happy Monday, folks.